Before Middlesbrough’s biggest game of the season against Leeds at Elland Road tonight, manager Tony Pulis has been dealt the hammer-blow that in form striker Martin Braithwaite wants to leave The Riverside Stadium.
There have been rumours circulating about Bratihwaite’s departure all summer, with the 27-year-old wanting to force a move to Spain, so Pulis must have been prepared. However, even though the transfer window will be closed by 7:45 PM, and therefore Braithwaite (valued at £7.2m on Transfermarkt.co.uk) will either be remaining at the club or not, he should not play tonight.
Obviously, if a transfer goes through, he will be ineligible to play, but in the event that he does stay at The Riverside Stadium, Pulis cannot pick a player that has gone through an ordeal like this.
If a player has spent the entire leave expecting and wanting an exit from his club, he will not be in the right mental state going into the game tonight. The turnaround is too swift for the Dane to mentally adjust and the team will suffer.
This is a basic sporting principle; that players who are not in the right frame of mind will negatively affect their team’s performance. In a game as crucial as this one, the Teeside club’s season may depend on it.
Pulis still has the red-hot Britt Assombalonga to play as a lone striker tonight. In light of the magnitude of this game, Pulis could well go for a much more defensive team, and may only play with a single striker, so the Braithwaite sage may not affect his side that much.
There is a good chance that Braithwaite will no longer be a player for The Boro come kick-off tonight, but either way, he should not play.